03/12/2014 07:10 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

10 Crucial Days That Shaped Pope Francis' First Year


When the final votes were counted in the Sistine Chapel on March 13, 2013, and the Jesuit Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio from Argentina had been elected, the Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes said to his friend the new pope, "Do not forget the poor." Pope Francis later told reporters, “The poor, the poor. When he spoke about the poor, I thought of St. Francis of Assisi.”

An hour later, Pope Francis walked onto the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica and raised his hand. For the last year, Pope Francis has not forgotten the poor. Indeed, care for the poor and marginalized has been the most constant focus of the papacy thus far; even as he has begun the enormous task of reforming the Catholic Church from the inside out.

In 365 days, the Pope has effected a major change in spirit, focus and structure of the Catholic Church. The following 10 days stand out as the most significant within the Pope's first year; which will serve to pave a crucial foundation for the future legacy of his papacy.

March 28, 2013 - Pope Francis Washes Feet of Inmates

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A mere two weeks after he was elected, Pope Francis left the walls of the Vatican to visit a juvenile detention center where he washed and kissed the feet of 12 prisoners incarcerated in Rome as part of the traditional Holy Thursday rite. The unorthodox location of ceremony was amplified as the pope included two women, one of whom was a Muslim, in the ritual. The show of acceptance, inclusion and compassion was just a hint at what was to come, as the pope has continued to make statements about the importance of humility for the church, interfaith understanding as well as the importance of a greater role for women in the church.

April 13, 2013 - Pope Francis Appoints 8 Cardinals To Advisory Council

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In the lead-up to the conclave that elected Pope Francis, the ability to reform the Curia was cited as a major requirement for the next pope. Pope Francis moved quickly to offset the influence of the Curia by appointing a standing advisory council made up of eight Cardinals from around the world, a move that also signaled his interest in a more decentralized governance within the church. The Council has met three times to advise the pope on his efforts to reform the Vatican bureaucracy.

May 22, 2013 -- Pope Says In Sermon That Atheists Who Do Good Are Saved

During a Wednesday homily Pope Francis got everyone's attention when he included non-Catholics and atheists in those who can do good and are saved by Jesus. The sermon quickly went viral and the Pope, who had already impressed Catholics and other Christians began to count the secularists and atheists among his fans. The Pope's comments on atheists are just one example of a pope who often makes unorthodox and superbly quotable comments that play well in the social media of the 21st century. These incidents are almost always followed by the Vatican public relations team playing clean-up.

"The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone!".. We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.”

July 28, 2013 -- Millions Attend World Youth Day Mass With Pope Francis

The excitement started as soon as Pope Francis' plane touched down and his motorcade moved into the city of Rio de Janeiro. At one point the pope's driver got confused and entered an area where throngs of Brazilians surrounded the car, reaching out to the pope who seemed completely unfazed by the mayhem. Over the next few days, Pope Francis visited hospitals, prisons and a favela, or 'slum', earning himself the momentary nickname 'Slum Pope.' Yet on the beaches of Copacabanna, the Pope seemed more like a rockstar as millions of young Catholics came to take part in the Mass. There was no denying that the Pope was a phenomenon who was revitalizing the spirit of Catholics around the world.

July 29, 2013 -- "Who Am I To Judge?'

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It was the quote heard around the world. On the plane back from Brazil, the Pope told a group of reporters, "Who am I to judge a gay person of goodwill who seeks the Lord?" and opened up a new conversation about gay rights within the Catholic Church. Since that first quote, Francis has continued to make statements on gays that amount to a shift in tone for the Vatican if not a change in doctrine. In an interview with a Jesuit publication he said that the church has been too "obsessed" with homosexuality and abortion and should focus more on being a "home for all"; and recently suggested that the church should study and possibly be open to civil unions.

Sept 30, 2013 -- Pope Francis Announces Plans To Canonize Pope John Paul II With Pope John XXIII Together

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During a meeting with cardinals, Pope Francis announced that both Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII would be canonized together on April 27th, 2014. The announcement came as a surprise to many as John XXIII still needed another miracle under normal Vatican rules. However, Pope Francis waived that rule in order to canonize two of the most beloved Popes of the 20th century together. Pope Francis appears to be a fan of both Popes and hopes to bring the more conservative admirers of Pope John Paul II together with the more liberal followers of Pope John XXIII in creating a more unified Catholic Church.

Nov 24, 2013 -- Pope Francis Publishes Apostolic Exhortation 'Evangelii Gaudium'

Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation "Evangelii Gaudium" was his first written on his own. Within the 'Joy of the Gospel', as the exhortation was titled, Pope Francis laid out a wide ranging platform for a good and faithful life. However, Pope Francis also offered a devastating critique of unfettered capitalism as "a new tyranny" and denounced the "idolatry of money." He called for an examination of the "structural causes on inequality" and demands action "beyond a simple welfare mentality." When right wing pundits such as Rush Limbaugh accused the Pontiff of Marxism he shrugged, saying, "There is nothing in the exhortation that cannot be found in the social doctrine of the church.” The Pope has made the poor a central part of his teaching and has also shown solidarity with immigrants.

Jan 12, 2014 -- Pope Francis Announces First Set Of Cardinals

Perhaps the pope’s most significant decision was his choice of 19 Catholic leaders to be elevated as cardinals. Nine out of the 16 new cardinals who are eligible to vote for the next pope are from the global south and Asia -- including some of the poorest countries in the world such as Haiti and Burkina Faso -- and five are from Latin America. By shifting power away from Italy and Europe, the pope is developing a hierarchy that more accurately represents the realities of the worldwide Catholic Church. This chart shows the monumental shift in Catholic Church leadership that has happened over the last 100 years.

February 24, 2014 -- Pope Francis Overhauls Vatican Bureaucracy With Secretariat Of The Economy

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While it did not make as much of a media splash, this structural shift is considered the most far reaching change of the Vatican in 25 years. Pope Francis created the position of the Secretariat of the Economy to oversea the finances and administrative functions of the Holy See and appointed Australian Cardinal George Pell to head the Secretariat. The move weakens the power of the Vatican Secretary of State. The change is one more step in Pope Francis' campaign to transform the Curia with a special focus on the scandal plagued Vatican Bank.

March 5, 2014 -- Pope Francis Defends Catholic Church On Sex Abuse

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Pope Francis' response to the legacy of sexual abuse, which many consider the number one stain on the Catholic Church, has been deemed inadequate by many. Pope Francis appointed a commission on sex abuse led by Cardinal Sean O'Malley, the archbishop of Boston, but as of yet has not met with any abuse victims. On March 5th the Pope responded to critics of the Catholic Church, including a UN report that had slammed the Vatican for systematically not protecting children from abuse, saying: “The Catholic Church is maybe the only institution to have moved with transparency and responsibility. No one else has done more. Yet the church is the only one to be attacked.” His defensive stance seems in contrast to the pastoral approach he has taken on other issues. If the Pope's second year is to be deemed as worthy as his first, he must move rapidly to begin to heal and remove this stain from the history of the Catholic Church.



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